Nov 07, 2008

NEW YORK TIMES: An Art Gallery that Has No Walls by Roberta Hershenson

October 5, 2008
An Art Gallery That Has No Walls

FIRST they were friends, then business partners. Even today, four years after opening a contemporary art gallery together in Beacon, Nancy Kiesendahl Bloch and Camilla Calhoun marvel at their compatibility. "It continues to be shocking to us how well we get along," Ms. Calhoun said.

Their harmony is especially notable, since the Beacon venture turned out to be a disappointment. Their books were in the black, but foot traffic was slower than they expected considering that Dia:Beacon was just a short distance away. So the two Westchester residents decided to close the gallery but continue the partnership by operating a gallery without walls, or "a roving gallery," as Ms. Bloch put it. Today, Kiesendahl and Calhoun Fine Art is showing art wherever the opportunity arises. The partners represent more than 30 artists / painters, for the most part, but also sculptors and photographers.

Several times a year they present exhibitions in Ms. Bloch's house that juxtapose styles and periods. These shows, they said, are intended to answer the frequently asked question, "How will this painting translate to my home?" They also hang four shows a year at an upscale spa in Pennsylvania. Ms. Bloch said they were "constantly looking for new artists."

One of their newest artists is the noted Italian ceramicist and sculptor Paolo Staccioli, who lives outside Florence and is known for his historical references, iridescent glazes and monumental works including ceramic figures up to six feet tall. After seeing his work at the Palazzo Pitti's Porcelain Museum in Florence, the partners arranged to bring it to New York for its American debut last spring at the Italian Cultural Institute in Manhattan and the LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton.

This week, Kiesendahl and Calhoun will present 25 of Mr. Staccioli's figures, vases and steles in a renovated space at 355 Manville Road in Pleasantville as part of "All Fired Up," a countywide celebration of clay.

Ms. Bloch, who lives in Pleasantville, was running a business for hotel companies from her home before starting the Beacon gallery. She met Ms. Calhoun 28 years ago; they both lived in Briarcliff Manor at the time. Their children grew up together.

Ms. Calhoun, now a Tarrytown resident, had an eclectic background that included running a flower shop in Italy and, for a time, directing the Westchester Land Trust, a preservation group based in Bedford Hills. (One project she started, the nine-day Great Hudson River Paddle, is currently being run by the state.) But she also had bona fide art credentials, having majored in art history and worked at the Frick Collection in Manhattan.

They have a singular focus when artists approach them. "We both have to have a strong emotional reaction to the art," Ms. Bloch said, adding with a shrug, "which sometimes means we might not sell as much."

The hardest part of the business? "Saying no to artists," Ms. Calhoun said.

"Tuscan Journey in Form: Luminous Ceramics of Paolo Staccioli" runs from Oct. 11 through Nov. 21, with a reception open to the public on Oct. 11 from 6 to 8 p.m.